Scientists say the biggest cause of brain injury is lack of oxygen in the days and weeks after birth. Because of the oxygen deprivation, there is considerable damage to the white matter of the brain. This is the area that is responsible for transmitting messages from the brain. Babies who are born just six months after gestation may be at the highest risk of suffering white matter damage. Babies who are this premature are very tiny, have low birth weight, and are subject to immense stress. The lungs are just not capable of delivering the amount of oxygen that is required to breathe, even when the baby is hooked on to a mechanical ventilator. This lack of oxygen can be severely detrimental to a newborn infant.
One technique that researchers are examining to limit the severity of the brain injury is to increase the production of myelin, or white matter in the brain in these premature infants. However, as of now, studies are still being conducted on mice, and human trials are a long way off.